The return of the outlaw
Switzerland’s relationship with the EU gets ever more complicated.
The Swiss have a complicated relationship with the European Union and appear determined to make it more complicated still. Opinion polls suggest that by a popular vote they will approve rules that would force the automatic expulsion of foreigners convicted of certain serious crimes.
Voting will be held on Sunday (28 November) and if it goes in favour then, according to this Swiss version of a citizens’ initiative, the proposal will be passed directly into law (the EU version of a citizens’ initiative only obliges the European Commission to consider coming up with a proposal). The text, which was drafted by an ad-hoc committee with strong support from Switzerland’s anti-immigrant People’s Party (SVP), requires the expulsion of any foreigner convicted of murder, rape (or other serious sexual offences), robbery, human trafficking, drug dealing or burglary.
Because the expulsions will be automatic and because they affect all non-nationals regardless of their legal status in the country, they will almost certainly violate a Swiss agreement with the EU on the free movement of people. Viviane Reding, the European commissioner for justice, was in Bern earlier this month (12 November) but, uncharacteristically, had nothing to say about the matter – at least not in public. A spokesperson for Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Swiss foreign minister, confirmed that the two women had discussed Sunday’s vote.
There is a further Swiss citizens’ initiative on the way: one that would oblige the Swiss government not to discuss EU membership for at least ten years. The organisers, who include the mainstream centre-right Free Democrats, have until May to collect the 100,000 signatures that would force a referendum.